South Kashmir’s Shopian Witnesses Day Long ‘Crackdown’

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Shopian: Government forces Thursday launched a massive search operation in South Kashmir in the wake of surge in militant related activities. Officials said that it was the first major anti-militancy operation in last 27 years.

Armed forces from 44 Rashtriya Rifles, Special Operation Group (SOG) units from Kulgam and Shopian and 7 Battalions of Para military Central Reserve Police Force laid a siege around 7 major hamlets of South Kashmir’s Shopian district including Tarkwangam, Chitragam Kalan, Hefdora, Molchitragam and Trenz.

Local news agency CNS quoting residents reported that thousands of armed forces personnel not only cordoned off the multiple villages but they also laid a siege around the vast paddy fields and apple orchards. Sources said that the siege was laid at around 4 in the morning while after launching a combing operation in the vast paddy fields, government forces started house to house search operation.

Helicopters and drones hovered for aerial surveillance overhead while soldiers went house to house hunting for militants, reports quoting villagers said.

The operation was launched a day after militants decamped with 5 service rifles from the policemen deployed in Court Complex in Shopian town on Tuesday night, killing of five policemen and two private security guards in Kulgam on May 1.

According to sources one of the militants whom the army had hoped to nab during the search was Sameer alias ‘Tiger.’

The searches ended in the late afternoon with no firing or casualties reported during the operation as no contact was established with the militants, officials said.

According to DIG South Kashmir SP Pani the search operation was launched to nab the hiding militants. “I can’t tell you whether we used helicopters or drones. It is a sensitive matter,” he said.

A police official admitted that drones were used to monitor the situation.

“This major search operation had become inevitable in wake of recent militant attacks. To conduct the operation smoothly and peacefully, CRPF personnel from about 7 battalions were deployed in these villages,” the official said.

Meanwhile, local residents from Tarkawangum alleged that government forces let loose a reign of terror in the area. They alleged that forces ransacked houses, damaged vehicles and bikes and thrashed people irrespective of their age. The allegations were however refuted by a police official.

Reports said that the operation was concluded after 12 hours. Police sources said that no arrests were made.

Meanwhile, the Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat while talking to reporters in New Delhi said that operation was launched in South Kashmir to bring the situation under control. “The combing operation is going on as some banks were looted and some policemen have been killed. It has been launched to ensure that the situation is brought under control. These operations are carried out regularly,” he said.

‘Crackdown’ goes awry: Analyst

After an extraordinarily large cordon and search operation by the army — probably the largest in more than a decade — went awry on Thursday, strategists ought to revisit the relevance of perceptions. For, not only was the army unable to nab militants during the “crackdown,” a section of the army was attacked on its return journey, wrote David Devadas in the news portal First Post.

Already, during the course of the search operation, which an army spokesperson described as a “sweep,” the forces had faced large-scale stone-pelting from mobs, which mobilised within the huge cordon. Close to 4,000 men of the army, CRPF and police were deployed from 3 am.

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